Author Archives: Andy Daer

A trip to Palestine

The racial profiling had gone a bit wrong.  We’d been walking along al Shuhada, a street in Hebron which is strictly off-limits for Palestinians, flanked by some nervous-looking Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers, when one of them demanded to see some ID.  He’d picked one our small group of British Lib Dems who was obviously of Indian origin.  Our Israeli guide, ex-IDF himself, gently reminded the young soldier that as ‘internationals’ we had rights not granted to Palestinians.

Our trip to Palestine earlier this year lasted only six days, but as well as Hebron, we visited Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, some outlying villages and towns, a Bedouin settlement threatened with demolition (but still there today), and a refugee camp for internally displaced people.  You can’t learn everything about a country in such a short time, but whatever you read or see in the media, there is no substitute for being there and meeting the people.  We were warmly received by the Palestinians we met – unsurprisingly, given that our (Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine) stated aim is to campaign for the rights of Palestinians, although it is maybe just a little surprising when you consider the past role of the British, exemplified by the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and our hasty departure from Palestine in 1948.

The context for our journey was provided on day one, at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  As well as working to improve the lot of the Palestinians, they collect data on casualty numbers on both sides of the ongoing conflict, and they showed us on a series of maps the steady decrease in the land occupied by Palestinians, due to the illegal (under international law) settlements in the ‘Occupied Territories’.  

The West Bank and Gaza were overrun by the IDF in a brief war more than fifty years ago, but are still subject to martial law.  We visited Military Court Watch, which independently monitors court proceedings when the accused are young Palestinians (under 18).  Typically, the charge is throwing stones at settlers, for which the penalty is usually several months in prison.  Around 200 children were in Israeli prisons when we were there; military courts operate differently from civil courts, and although evidence is not always available, the conviction rate is 99%. 

Sometimes our guides were Israeli Jews who were out of step with the current right-wing Israeli government, and they and their Palestinian counterparts impressed us with their calm determination to see their land freed from conflict.  One thing they all stressed was the effectiveness of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.  The views and support of the outside world really matter.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 5 Comments

Countering the fear factor

Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who rarely met anyone they didn’t know, and were probably wise to be cautious when they did. In modern cities we are used to seeing strangers by the thousand, but our genetic inheritance is still there, and it is easy to re-awaken the atavistic fear that people who look or sound different might be dangerous. Stirring up racism is part of a simple principle of leadership; tell people there is an external threat and set yourself up as a powerful and angry leader. If the people fear the external threat they will welcome an aggressive masterful …

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Giving voice to the millions who didn’t vote in the Referendum

What happened to the 11.9 million who didn’t vote in the referendum last year?  According to the pro-Brexit lobby’s version of ‘democracy’ they no longer exist.

Non-voters may have been unregistered, uninterested, or too busy to pop in the polling station, and others reckoned their single vote would never matter much and didn’t bother, but there is a core who were confused by the lies and misinformation and didn’t know which way to turn, after a campaign that was shoddy on both sides.

In the last few months the effects of the Brexit vote have started to become clearer.  The pound immediately lost value, banks and other financial institutions are starting to move to other European countries, there are big doubts about the future of aero-space and our foreign-owned car industry, EU citizens are already leaving and creating labour shortages in key industries and services, anti-foreigner rhetoric is making the UK an unfriendly xenophobic place, and forecasts predict a long-lasting downturn in the economy, causing tax revenue reductions which would far outweigh the mythical £350m a week gain.  Brexit champions thrived on stirring up anti-EU feelings but had no plan for the future, apart from a low-tax, low-tariff Poundshop Britain which would horrify most of us, including leave voters.  They had boasted we could easily do advantageous deals with economic super-powers like the USA and China, but the reality is stark; trade agreements take years to negotiate, and we would come off worst in deals with ‘America first’ USA and the equally self-centred China.

Despite all this, the Brexiters claim another referendum would be “anti-democratic”, because “the people have spoken.”  We all seem to be forgetting that 11.9 million didn’t speak.  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 20 Comments
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